Supposing you take the shame quotient out of my sensibility and replace it with the modern equivalent, “emotion”, you will make something entirely different out of my words. Instead of sensing the doubling of my identity as a distressing movement away from social debasement into something wholesome and good, you will read my sentences as the spontaneous flowering of some general feminine “emotion”. This contemporary interpretation of myself is the most remote from me. Should I try to understand myself in that light, I really don’t understand anything at all. The expression of any emotion in the past has been as a result of overcoming deep shame. Inserting another modern interpretation here will not do. My previous denial of myself was not personal, and did not have its roots in any particular sense of my self-worth. Instead, I suffered from the general social devaluation of the individual as such, within my original culture. To understand this is to begin to speak my language.
My original reading of Nietzsche was facilitated by my status as a historical throw-back. I had already existing emotional inroads into his writing, through the faculty of shame. To read him with a more modern lens, as I am now capable of doing, is to lose one of the fundamental dimensions of his work: throw away the 3-D spectacles, and you are left with a facile postmodernist interpretation — a sense that everything about reality is only “seeming” and ultimately false. Replace the glasses again, and you will see that the three dimensions re-appear and the task at hand becomes much more apparent: overcoming basic shame through self-transcendence.
Suppose shame and the need to counteract it can be considered “an emotion”? One runs the risk of logical equivocation by applying modern meanings to old-fashioned things. Shame meant an absence of emotion. It still does. When I become ashamed, I stop feeling. The folly of trying to shame me into conventional feminine roles is that I cease to feel anything.
I write against a backdrop where everything is exactly the opposite, where people naturally indulge their emotions and place themselves above all others in a way that used to take me by surprise. The capacity to double oneself is now lacking, because there no longer seems to be any sense of an unworthy self to transcend. One may now produce an emotion and by means of doing so, assume perfection.
All forms of self-expression are now rendered facile. When one’s sensations don’t mean anything in three-dimensions, one can express one’s inner nature until dawn breaks and the proverbial cows moo on home. The third dimension — the one that made anything appear significant — has disappeared, as a historical fact.
To seek emotion, from the perspective of one who lacks emotion, is not the same as to seek self-gratification from the perspective of one who already feels self-assured.
I understand now why some people saw my search for emotional being as an expression of excessive emotional being, because their own characters are not lacking in emotional sensibility: mine was.
I had to regress a great deal into my past to find an emotional seed, to grow it. I experienced this as a heroic attempt. To others, brought up in a fluid river of emotion, this task was always unnecessary. Their views and mine do not concur because we are different at core. Different needs are the basis for differing perceptions.
The fundamental problem addressed by Nietzsche and Bataille and Marechera — and the meaning of their shamanic doubling — was to come to the rescue those aspects of their selves that had been stranded in the past, due to basic shame.
This sense of shame at having missing psychological parts provided both the necessity and the means to shamanic doubling. It made it necessary to conjure a heroic self in order to redeem the shameful self. It was also the means for doing so, in that one had to find a way to combat shame, by pushing oneself in another direction. This led to a basic division of the psyche into two parts: one part the redeemer; the other part, the rescued.
Western people today suffer from the opposite problem to that which I experienced. I was emotionally emaciated, and so much so that like Knut Hamsun’s vagrant protagonist, I could not even eat a juicy steak. Western people these days don’t even understand the concept of this kind of hunger. They’re so used to being fed as an impersonal experience.
I count myself lucky to have experienced old-fashioned states of being, but now all the signs are flashing that the form of shamanic doubling I’ve expanded on cannot be used unless one is old-fashioned. Shamelessness leads to incomprehension. One cannot be heroic when one already has more than one needs; rather one ought to hold back and refrain from self-indulgence.
I had very little in the past, and that was the source of my feminist agenda. I sought to gain more of three-dimensional reality, instead of the two dimensional existence I’d been living.
Even a few of Bataille’s critics appear to accuse him of self-indulgence. This means that modernity had fully arrived around the time that he was writing and we’re screwed.
Are modern types really living the three-dimensional realities they think they are or are they experiencing the world as having only two fundamental aspects?
Is it now to be assumed that we all think the same?
What happened to an appreciation for the ways historical time and historically-engendered change shape our psychological structures? Are we all over the need to realize that, now?